When commenting on some public issue, devout believers frequently write letters to the editor expressing their confidence in the Bible and its prescription for how that issue must be understood. If it is in the Bible, it must be true.
Yet, over the centuries, this attitude has led to advocacy of slavery, segregation of the races, subordination of women and corporal punishment for children. It was only when these Biblical teachings were set aside that justice prevailed.
The latest such challenge to Biblical fundamentalism is the debate about same-sex marriage. Those who continue to insist on Biblical standards say the Bible should be the final word on who should marry and how.
Many of those Biblical passages are found in the book of Leviticus, which prescribed religious practices of the ancient Israelites dating back several centuries before the birth of Christ. In Leviticus, the place of women – and the institution of marriage – is set out as a part of the property codes.
Women were property, and men were owners of women. Indeed, a man could own as many women as he could afford. Polygamy was the standard, not monogamy.
Men owned women in three categories: they owned wives; they owned concubines; and they owned slaves. All were available to the owner for his sexual use. Most of the women involved were little more than breeding stock. These standards were prevalent all over the Middle East and reflect Mesopotamian and Babylonian traditions.